Students discuss Maine election
The results of the elections, held on Tuesday, November 2, brought to light the national political mood and revealed that independent candidates are a force with which to be reckoned.
In the national election, the Republican Party gained control of the House of Representatives, while the Democratic Party maintained control of the Senate. In Maine, Paul LePage (R), Tea Party-affiliated mayor of Waterville, carried the gubernatorial race with 38.1 percent of the popular vote, barely edging out Eliot Cutler (I), who received 36.7 percent of the popular vote. Libby Mitchell (D) was a distant third in the race, obtaining approximately 19 percent of the vote.
Maine voters elected incumbents Chellie Pingree (D) and Michael Michaud (D) to the U.S. House of Representatives. They also elected county officers and chose representatives for the Maine State Legislature, which now has a Republican majority in both houses for the first time since the early seventies.
In addition to electing candidates, Maine voters successfully passed three other ballot items. The first was a citizen initiative that posed the question of whether or not to allow the construction of a casino in Oxford County. The casino will contribute a portion of its revenue to the state education system, as well as to the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe. The other two items were bond issues. Now approved, they will allow greater statewide access to dental care and contribute to statewide environmental conservation efforts.
Students agreed that economic issues played a more significant role than social issues in this election. “Voters are very dissatisfied with the economy, especially independents,” one of the leaders of the Colby Republicans Anne Burton ’12 said. This explains, in part, why LePage and Cutler, who are both fiscally conservative, received such a large portion of the vote.
“Maine is actually a pretty poor state, especially northern Maine,” Johanna Salay ’12, co-president of the Colby Democrats said. “[There are] lots of people [living] below the poverty line.”
The close gubernatorial race in Maine between a Tea Party-affiliated candidate and an independent candidate reflected national attitudes. “The independent party is very appealing to a lot of people these days,” Salay said.
Maine native Jamie Curley ’12 is an active member of the Colby Democrats. She said people are “disenchanted with the way things are.”They are fed up with the Democrats because of the current economic situation, and they are fed up with the Republicans because of lingering frustrations from the “Bush-era.”
On top of that, “Maine [voters have]…a history of being headstrong independents,” Burton said.
Even though the country appears to be experiencing disillusionment with Washington—made clear by the big Republican victory on Election Day—Burton said the nationwide strength of the Tea Party in this election was “a little surprising.” She added, “The Tea Party wants to become the new Republican Party.” She said she expects “tension between [the] moderate wing [of the Republican Party] and [the] more conservative wing of the Tea Party movement” in the coming years.
Explaining the Tea Party’s recent success, “people are frustrated with the status quo,” Salay said, and, therefore, are “attracted to radical change.”
Salay said that because this was a midterm election, “it was a lot harder to generate interest on campus.” The Colby Democrats shuttled people to the polls for early voting and on Election Day. They transported an estimated total of 80 people, less than five percent of the College’s student population, to the polls, but they were aware that additional student voters provided their own transportation.
A contested issue among College students has long been whether out-of-state students should vote in the Maine elections if they are not from the state. While many students from the College chose to vote in their home states, there were also many who voted in Maine. “If you do choose to vote in Maine…inform yourself,” Burton said. She said that students should think about “how [their] choices [affect] people who live here” and take the time to do research and “really know what candidates stand for, what they believe in.”
Whether students voted in-state or out-of-state, the most important thing was that they voted at all. Curley said, “You can’t complain if you don’t vote.”